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City Council considers daytime meetings

January 20, 2014

The Bishop City Council is considering moving its meetings from 7 p.m. at night to 1 p.m. in the afternoon. One councilman said attendance at council meetings is rather low, but acknowledged that on rare occasions, (such as when Valerie Needham was named Citizen of the Quarter, above) Council Chambers do become standing-room-only. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

Bishop’s elected officials are considering leaving primetime.
The City Council has proposed changing its meeting times from the evening to the afternoons as part of yet another cost-saving measure.
“It’s just one of many things we are discussing, looking at ways to save money,” said Councilman David Stottlemyre, who floated the idea at the council’s Dec. 11 budget workshop.
A draft ordinance will be presented to the council at its Jan. 27 meeting, outlining the change from 7 p.m. at night to 1 p.m. in the afternoon. The council’s study sessions, which have historically started at 4 p.m., would be switched to 10 a.m.
If the ordinance is approved, it will come back for a second reading. If that reading is approved, the change will take effect 30 days after that.
The idea, according to Administrator Keith Caldwell, is that the city will save in overtime costs and possibly other expenses such as heating, air conditioning and electricity by holding the meetings during normal business hours.
Caldwell explained that all department heads and mid-level managers are on salary, so theydon’t accrue overtime anyway, but any other staff member attending a council meeting in the evening is being paid overtime.
Stottlemyre said switching the meetings from night to day will save the city an estimated $12,000 a year in overtime costs alone.
Stottlemyre, incidentally, is running for Inyo County Assessor in the June Primary. He still has three years left of his current council term, and even if he’s elected to the county office, he said he’d like to stay and fulfill his commitment on the council. “We all want to do our best and do what we were elected to do,” he said.
Originally, Stottlemyre also proposed reducing the number of council meetings from two a month to only one, based on the rationale that over a 12-month period, not many of the agendas were “very lengthy.”
“Then it was decided that’s probably not a good idea at this time,” he said.
Stottlemyre did concede that changing a public meeting to business hours – when a lot of residents are at school or work – could come with some challenges.
“The general feeling was that there were probably just as many people who can’t make the night time meetings,” he said, citing residents who work swing shifts, for example. “Others now have a chance to make it to City Council meetings …
“We took the position that we want to give it a try, because ($12,000) is a lot of money.”
According to Stottlemyre, most of the time, there is no public participation at City Council meetings anyway – it’s just the council and city staff in the room. He did admit, however, that at other times, the council chambers have been filled to capacity with residents wishing to speak on controversial issues.
“Part of our objective is getting as many people involved as possible,” Stottlemyre said. “This may turn out to be counter to that and we may have to go back, but we’re exploring different avenues, trying to make things work better, if that’s possible.”
Residents’ ability to view the council meetings from home on Monday nights might not be impacted.
Caldwell noted the council meetings will continue to be televised, and one option – if the council does vote to move to daytime meetings – is to air the footage at night.
The city is also looking into software that will allow it to live stream City Council meetings on the Internet, as well as archive them on its website so that residents can watch the meetings whenever they want.

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